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Environment : London Comes Clean in Poll of Europe's Tidiest Capitals : Here's the dirt: Romans should poop-scoop more, and Amsterdam needs to crack down on graffiti.

March 15, 1994|WILLIAM TUOHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — You could have fooled most Londoners when word got out that a survey of major European capitals showed theirs was the cleanest.

London residents have taken an almost perverse pride in describing their city as getting dirtier every year. But after years of being considered a capital of litter, particularly in the central tourist area, London was ranked above eight other European capitals in a cleanliness comparison of city centers.

The survey was conducted by the Tidy Britain Group, an anti-litter organization that sent pairs of observers to each city's main governmental, shopping, terminal and tourist areas.

The cities ranked on a descending scale were London, Berne, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam (largest city in the Netherlands, though The Hague is the capital), Rome, Brussels, Madrid and Athens, which the surveyors said came in a solid last.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 22, 1994 Home Edition World Report Page 3 Column 3 World Report Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
The Hague--In an article in last week's World Report on the cleanliness of European capitals, the Hague was incorrectly identified as the capital of the Netherlands. The Hague is the seat of government; Amsterdam is the capital.

The surveyors attempted to measure the amount of litter, graffiti, vandalism and dog mess in an area of one-kilometer radius (about two-thirds of a mile) from four central points: a major government building, a busy shopping street, a major rail station and a popular central tourist spot.

The group's director, Elizabeth Allen, said: "Our surveyors found very little litter in central London. That may sound strange, but people sometimes judge on preconceptions rather than the actuality."

Environmental Secretary John Gummer was delighted with the results, declaring: "It is time we took the view which other cities have. We should praise our successes and celebrate that which we do well."

London was described in the survey as "very clean," while Berne, Switzerland, which won the cleanliness award two years ago, was called "generally very clean."

The cleanest central shopping street was found to be Berne's Bahnhofplatz; the dirtiest, Boulevard Haussmann in Paris.

Of Rome, the Tidy Britain people reported: "The Romans have not yet learned to poop-scoop. It would be a much cleaner city if its citizens stopped smoking."

Amsterdam was said to have the most prolific graffiti artists.

At the bottom of the table, the surveyors found that Madrid was the dog-fouling capital of Europe, with canines defecating "anywhere and everywhere." But Madrid won the honors for the cleanest railroad station area.

And Athens (Greece currently holds the presidency of the European Union) was described as a grim, polluted city with a "virtual plague of cigarette butts." The Greeks are listed as the world's heaviest smokers after Cubans.

Curiously, despite its reputation for litter, Athens is one of the few capitals to have daily trash collection. But dog-ownership in the Greek capital has become fashionable, and the streets are increasingly fouled.

As an Athens official admitted: "Unlike Britain, we've never had an anti-litter campaign. It's a sad fact that Greeks are simply not as environmentally aware or as litter-trained as their European counterparts."

Asked whether the Tidy Britain Group was impartial, Allen insisted: "Two years ago, our survey showed Berne in first place. I don't believe the study is biased. London, by comparison, is really clean."

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